Linguistically Challenged

Trying to get your point across here is sometimes difficult, other times exasperating and, very often, highly amusing. Trying to explain something in Chinese when you don’t know the exact word can often result in an experience like I had recently:

Me: “I need that water stuff for taking off eye make-up” (sadly I don’t know how to say “eye-makeup remover”)

Shop assistant: “What?” (confused look)

: “Ok, you know at night before you go to bed, you have to take the make-up off your eyes….”

: “You mean *(&%(*%$@# ? ”

: “I don’t know the name of it. Is it the stuff you use to take off eye make-up?”

: “What?”

: “Ok, just show me the thing you think it is”

We got there eventually. You really start to realise here that even the way we explain things is inherently different in different cultures.

Chinese is a fun language to learn, and thankfully, once you know a few basic words, the basic grammar is so simple that its easy to make proper sentences. Sadly, the same cannot be said for English, and the local Chinese learning English here with little chance to interact with native speakers can get it very, very wrong. Especially the people naming housing developments here, it seems. “Boning Garden” is just around the corner from my friend’s place and “Pingod” is not too far away from me. Check out this job ad that I found on a job site:

Customer Service
1. Introduce and show our hospital to the foreigner as guide,
2. Accompany foreigner customer when they are therapy as translater,
3. Help markting department to do some publicize activity,
4. To be dule power pregnant woman when they are in pregnanting,
5. Other customer service working.
6. We need a female , who is from which country that mother tongue is English is better.

Oh dear. That really did go horribly wrong, didn’t it. Sometimes for non-native Chinese speakers, even Chinese can sound hilarious, strange or just plain wrong when we translate it with our English-wired brains…

Security guard at shopping mall last night: “Excuse me, we’ve closed the doors”

Well, clearly they hadn’t, because my friends and I had just walked through the open doors as had many people behind us and when we went to exit later, they were still open. (That’s actually standard Chinese for “We’re closed”). I still feel sorry for the sweet guy many years ago who said to me earnestly in Chinese “I want to do your boyfriend!” After I finally stopped laughing and noticed the look on his face I realised I had translated it wrong, not “do” but “be”, “I want to be your boyfriend”. I don’t think he ever recovered fully from the unexpected humiliation as I couldn’t explain what I was laughing at!
One of my favourite Chinese popular sayings is what the security guard says to me on my way in the gate at my housing compound “Oh, you’ve come back!”

I have to fight with every essence of my being not to say something sarcastic (“No I haven’t, this is a figment of your imagination”, “Ha! That’s what you think…”) and stick with the standard, acceptable answer, “Yes, yes I’m back”!! Chinese love stating the obvious out-loud, “Look, a foreigner!”, “That woman is fat!!!”, “Oh, you’re leaving” and sadly most Chinese people do not have a sarcastic bone in their body. As a foreigner and lover of sarcasm, I’m lucky to have found a boyfriend who gets it too, otherwise some days, I just might burst!!

  • Share/Bookmark
Posted in Life as an alien | Leave a comment

Foie-gras and Chinese Chandler

Well, Foie-gras and Chinese Chandler are not at all related, but that just demonstrates the diversity of one week of life in Beijing. Tonight it was 5-star dining as the fake ‘new freelance dining writer’ so I could accompany my friend, the magazine editor to a freebie dinner at the new restaurant at the Shangri-La Hotel. I, the extremely difficult eater, should have asked more questions before accepting so quickly, but hey, how often do you get a free dinner at a 5-star hotel restaurant?

Well, it was a fabulous meal and definitely like no other. We sat at a special chef’s table inside the kitchen – luckily the restaurant has not fully opened yet so the kitchen was not quite at full pace – though my friend and I were both disppointed at how mild-mannered the chef was (a great Irish guy shipped in specially for the restaurant). When my friend announced she was a vegetarian and I announced I was a non-seafood eater (at a restaurant named ‘The Blu Oyster’) he didn’t even bat an eyelid! We were treated to a 9-course ‘taster menu’ with the PR lady and her assistant in tow, so when it came to downing the foie-gras, I had little choice but to quickly swallow it down without tasting or thinking about what it was (thankfully I had forgotten, and will leave it a month or so till I find out) and follow it up with a swig of expensive white wine. The most interesting part of the meal was probably the final ‘course’ when the chef handed us each a toothbrush and said “wipe the toothpaste onto your tongue then drink it down with this mouthwash” – served in a shot glass, of course!!

This week was also one of those fabulous weeks where me and my sister received the parcel lovingly prepared for us by mum and dad. Always a pleasure (thanks Mum!!) and especially so this time, as it contained easter eggs. The boyfriend is never impressed when anyone gives me chocolate but I figured he better try his first easter eggs. He gobbled them down so gladly that he really seemed to love chocolate, I was really fascinated, “So you look really happy, you like them huh?” But with a mouth full of chocolate he replied nonchalantly “I am so NOT happy!!”

Earlier this week we had a friend of the boyfriend come to stay (phone call: “I’m in Beijing now, can I come stay at your place for a couple of days?”). She was very sweet and very well meaning, washing the dishes (putting them away still wet in the cupboard) and mopping the floor (and rinsing the mop in the toilet – which actually had blue water, so I don’t know how she managed to clean the floor so well). Very well-meaning anyway, and put me to shame with her enthusiasm for housework. When I told her I didn’t usually watch Chinese tv cos I couldn’t understand, she happily started explaining exactly what was happening for me at that moment on the tv – “…now they are doing a dance and those things they are waving are ribbons..” – not exactly what I meant
Early last week, one of the boyfriend’s friends came over to our place for dinner and it led me to reflect on the differences between Chinese and western men, for instance, my boyfriend’s male friends who havent seen him lately often tell him over the phone or by text message “I miss you!!” – definitely not something an aussie guy would admit to another man usually, but kinda sweet. I also found it funny that when my boyfriend put on my swimming goggles to chop up the onion (the tradition in our house) his friend just carried on talking, without even a moment’s hesitation or a thought of going “what the …?”, although, when we were seeing him off at the front door and I saw his shoes as he was putting them back on (black slip-on cloth shoes with a flower embroidered – the type old ladies here wear) it all kinda started to make sense!

  • Share/Bookmark
Posted in Life as an alien | Leave a comment

Strangest Incident Awards of the Week

Its been a strange week in Beijing, perhaps its because the weather is showing signs of slowing moving over from freeze-your-bits-off cold to sweat-your-weight-in-buckets hot.

The first award for Strangest Incident of the Week goes to a woman I met at the local supermarket. Well, not that I met her, more really that she pushed me out of the way at the completely-empty deli counter. I turned around to see what was going on and was struck speechless when confronted by a 40-something woman pushing me out of the way. I gave her the look up and down but it didn’t seem to faze her. Having already gotten what I needed, I gave up and walked away, only to hear her asking the person behind the counter “how much per kilo is the stuff she just bought?” “2 kuai” “And how much did she buy?” “1 kilo” ??? what the?? Did THAT really neccessitate pushing me out of the way??

The second award for strangest incident of the week goes to the guy who was sentenced to a prison term this week for breaking into luxury houses in Beijing, only to then take a shower, watch tv and go to bed. On finding that someone was in one house he had already broken into, he continued on as usual, moving to the second floor when the occupant when down to the first floor and so on. He was finally caught when someone came home and found a the very clean stranger sitting in their living room watching their tv.

Speaking of watching tv, I saw something last week that left me unsure of how to react. As I was walking home along a main road, I looked over to where there was some construction work going on by the side of the road. Usually the construction workers here are from out of town and live in extremely basic dwellings on site and generally live a very hard life, earning little money which they send back to their family in the home town. As I was walking past I saw all the guys were sitting down eating their dinner together, but rather than sitting facing eachother and having a chat, they were sitting facing the noisy, main road, eyes transfixed like they were watching tv. Maybe, coming from a small town somewhere, they had never seen anything like peak hour in Beijing. But I was torn between laughing at the way we often go out of way to entertain ourselves at such expense compared with the simple enjoyment these guys could get from watching the hustle bustle of the world go by. But I was also a bit sad that maybe this was as good as it gets for these guys, sitting by a polluted, noisy road in the freezing cold and never having watched a tv.

Well its been a big week here in busy Beijing and the addition of two, new (and hopefully more durable than the last) baby turtles has been a highlight. Sitting next to me at my computer, these guys keep me entertained by climbing all over eachother, trying to climb out of the tank, falling down the ramp they have and one even fell off the little platform today. I tell ya, its keeping me on the edge of my seat!

  • Share/Bookmark
Posted in Life as an alien | Leave a comment

The Slacker is Back!!!!

Ok, so I have really been back for a while, but I have been slack, slack, slack!! I promise it won’t happen again… well, I’ll try!!

As always, this city continues to be fun, interesting and, at times, crazy to live in. Last night was fun, we went to the Ziggy Marley (son of Bob) concert. Having made the very smart decision to wear my tall shoes (which I don’t often do cos I’m already so tall) and already having a massive height advantage over most of the crowd, I had a fantastic view of the whole gig. The same could not be said of the poor short-arses who got stuck behind. But, like I told my friend, if I let every short person stand in front of me I’d be standing right down the back!! Anyway, Ziggy was great, but, unsurprisingly, it was the covers of his Dad’s old songs that got the best reception.

The Ziggy concert and my current lack of employment has got me thinking – perhaps I should take this opportunity in my life to finally grow the dreadlocks I’m only just realising I always wanted. What do you think? Perhaps I should take a vote and leave it open to you!!!

Actually, the job hunt is not going so badly considering I don’t really want a job. Well I want to work, but I don’t wanna be working for the man! This freelance stuff is looking good, especially when its so cold outside and it means I get to stay home and can even work on my laptop from bed if I want!! Jealous?

With the weather being so cold lately, I’ve been taking more taxis than usual and its led to me to compare the different driving styles of the taxi drivers in this city. One popular one is the guy who is in a real hurry (“Sir, I’d just to get there alive, seriously ,no hurry!), weaving in and out of the traffic and honking on the horn to tell everyone to get out of the way. This guy is actaully preferable to the one who was weaving at top speed in slow, heavy traffic and (in broad daylight) used only a flash of th headlights to indicate to everyone to get out of the way. I’ve also had “Mr I’ve-got-all-the-time-in-the-world”. I knew I should have been worried when he asked me which way I wanted to go and I said whichever is the fastest and he suppressed a small chuckle. Oh dear. That was a long ride.

But my favourite of all my recent drivers was the guy who spent the whole time on his radio discussing with about 10 of his taxi driving mates about which was the best way for each of them to go, and finally conceding “they’re all crap, its Friday – traffic jam day” and then when I didn’t have enough small change to pay the fare he gave me a discount!!

  • Share/Bookmark
Posted in Life as an alien | 2 Comments

Alien in Beijing – not in Beijing

Dear All,

Due to me currently being in Australia – land of the predictable, boring, usual, Alien in Beijing will have to take a break. I look forward to entertaining you with more craziness in March.


  • Share/Bookmark
Posted in Life as an alien | Leave a comment

Internet man hunt Successful!!

A really interesting, growing phenomenon here is the power and use of the internet by ordinary people. Chinese bloggers are having quite an impact here and pushing the boundaries of what is narrowly allowed. An interesting thing that happened recently is the case of a blogger who posted the story and photos of a traffic incident…

A foreign woman who was riding her bike in the bike lane got so fed up with all the cars driving in the bike lane on her way to work one day that she got off her bike and positioned it across the lane in a way that only bikes and no cars could pass. Sure enough, along came a driver who was forced to stop. He proceeded to get out of his car and hurl abuse at the woman in front of the massive peak hour crowd of commuters. She stood here ground, even when he proceeded to pick her bike up and throw it on the ground… twice. Finally, he had no choice but to back up and join the rest of the cars in the proper car lane.

After the story was published on the blog, Chinese netizens went on a man hunt, trying to find out who the guy was and basically shame him. Thousands of people posted messages criticising him for his bad behaviour and eventually his home phone number and address were published on the internet. He finally apologised (after many people calling his home number telling him what they thought of him) and changed his home phone number.

Actually, the funniest part of all this is the confirmation that although very dangerous to drive in the bike lane, it was not actually illegal for him to do so!!

A big part of this story is probably the fact that it would have been entirely different if it had been a Chinese woman instead of a foreign woman. For starters, it would probably not have made the news at all, and people at the scene probably would have questioned her mental health, rather than the way they respectfully reacted to the foreigner. And this kind of issue is the big one I find hard to deal with here.

Its strange and unpredictable, sometimes foreigners are treated better than Chinese and sometimes worse. The worse is usually when it comes to money – there is an inherent expectation here that ‘foreigners earn lots of money (lots more than Chinese)’ so therefore we should pay more for everything. Its true that many foreigners here are earning a lot more than Chinese people, but not all of us (I’m not even working right now, so I’m earning less than everyone!!). But does that mean that they should automatically pay more for the same good or service? I’m sure if anyone started earning more money, they would be very displeased with having to pay more than they did before.

This whole thing was reinforced when the bf and I went to print my CV. I don’t have a printer at home, so we went down to the local printing guy, but the problem was that we didn’t know how much we should pay (every price here is flexible!!). The bf tried to bargain the price down and the printer guy responded with “What, she’s a foreigner and you still want to bargain!!??” I left the mandatory 3-second gap for my bf to defend my honour, but nothing.

“What’s that got to do with it?” I was getting mad already

“Oh, you foreigners all earn lots of money”

“I am unemployed which is why I’m printing my CV out. And your prices should not discriminate on where people come from”

This was followed by him angrily trying to justify what he believed was a fair policy, me telling him i would never come back and I would tell all my friends not to go there either and me finally being ushered out of the shop before I could say anything else.

I’m really starting to learn that Chinese people aren’t so big on “its the principle of the thing” the way that I think western people are. My bf said it wasn’t worth the hassle of even going through it with the guy and we should have just paid the money and left without making a fuss. I don’t think that’s something I could ever do. Maybe my little outburst achieved nothing, but maybe, just maybe, next time that guy sees a foreigner in his shop, he won’t be so quick to charge his foreigner prices.

Then again, he probably will!! And after all that, I took my USB disk back home, stck it in my computer and found that along with my printout, I had also received 2 viruses!! Thank you!

  • Share/Bookmark
Posted in Life as an alien | 1 Comment

Now I’m Funny in Chinese…

I made a complete stranger laugh the other day. Possibly the first time ever in China!! We were in the subway station and she turned round and asked me which exit was for the department store (I believe its the also the first time a Chinese person has ever asked me for directions). I told her which exit it was and she thanked me profusely in the midst of breaking into laughter, probably because A) she had just asked a foreigner for directions and B) the foreigner could tell her the answer in Chinese!!

After 3 weeks without TV (we forgot to pay the TV bill and then were so outraged at how expensive it was that we finally managed to get the landlord to pay it!!), it was nice to sit down and flick through the seemingly endless array of channels and bizarre things going on on each. At one point I flicked on to a kids show – I usually like watching these, cos I have a much better chance of understanding what small children are saying, but this show was awful. There were 4 kids up on the stage and after they had introduced themselves and shown off their “special skill”, the hosts got 24 kids out of the audience, who then went up and lined up behind the kid they liked the best. If you got 6 or more kids behind you, you stayed on, otherwise you were kicked out. I was almost reduced to tears myself when, with their parents watching in the audience, the 4 kids checked out how many kids liked them the best. One poor little girl who looked about 4 years old had no-one behind her and she burst into tears. What a dreadful show. The rest of my channel surfing brought up horrendous shows like the “accident show” where at the very moment I flicked on, they were showing a guy who had a steel rod lodged thru his head right near his eyeball. Coming in the show was another rescue attempt for someone stuck down an old well (I swear that must happen in China every week, cos its a popular theme).

Late last week, I went back to my old office to work on a project. It was great to see my old colleagues and catch up. My Chinese colleague was busying making phone calls when suddenly the whole office went quiet at something she had said. She had called the mobile phone of a contact she regularly worked with in another province but someone else had answered his phone. The person wouldn’t really tell her much about where he was and why he couldn’t answer the call, so my colleague was trying to figure out what was going on. Finally the person on the other end of the line said “He’s been arrested”. She couldn’t believe it. Straightaway she called his office number to try and find out what was happening. He answered the phone. Turns out she had called the wrong number number and happened to get a prankster with a nasty sense of humour!!

One of my distant friends here who is 8-months pregnant went to the supermarket the other day. On the way out, she grabbed a chocolate bar and starting eating it as she got into a taxi for the trip home. The driver took one look at her and said “So fat!! And you’re still eating!!??” She was so stunned she didn’t know what to say. Take it from me, if you need an honest opinion about your body, this is the place to get it. Just walk down the street, or get in a taxi…

Finally, I had a waaay too good time at Ladies’ night this week. Ladies’ night happens every Wednesday in Beijing and basically means free alcohol at many of the bars across town. I know they think it might be a good way to attract lots of paying men interested in all the drunk women, but one of our favourite bars has taken the whole thing one step furher. Free drinks, all male waiters (some foreign, which is like a blue moon in China), a dancing show and no other men allowed in from 9-11pm!! I’m not sure what the bar stands to get from it (though it was like the floodgates had opened when the clock struck 11) but I like it!!

If you want to know more about what life in Beijing is like, drop me a line, or stay tuned for next week’s update. Thank you and goodnight!

  • Share/Bookmark
Posted in Life as an alien | Leave a comment

normal, everyday life is like this…

its been another big and crazy week, and i don’t even have a full time job to entertain me. trust me, this week has been very entertaining, but before i go on, let me share two little gems from news here in the last month or so…Â

A German guy after studying performance art in Hangzhou(near Shanghai), was arrested for imitating a warrior in the terracotta warrior exhibit in xian. he dressed up in a pretyy good imitation-warrior outfit, jumped into the pit in full view of the hundreds of tourists who are always there and then did such a good imitation of a real terracotta warrior, it took the officials over an hour to find him!!!??? following a full confession and apology he was released, and promised not to do it again.

A drunk migrant worker went to the zoo and bit off more than he could chew after an extra long drinking session nearby. He decided the pandas looked so cute that he wanted to hug one, jumped into the enclosure and was bitten by startled GuGu, awoken from her nap by the drunken fool giving her a bear hug. She bit him on the leg. He kicked her, she bit him on the other leg and he bit her back. “Pandas look so cute, no one ever said they would bite a human being”??!! After leaving the hospital he was last seen heading for a bar near Underwater World. (haha, just kidding, although, no-one ever says sharks bite people!!).

Ok, back to my own crazy life. If you remember cat-boy from last week, you’ll be interested in this latest update. On returning again to try and get his video camera back, he found his newly-ex-girlfriend already in the arms of another guy in the garden outside her family’s apartment. Things got very heated, the police were called and the girl’s family started hurling abuse and trying to embarass cat-boy in front of the entire neighbourhood of people who had come out to see what all the noise was about. He was called some nasty names and the tirade went on and on until he’d decided he’d had enough. He delighted the surrounding crowd with stories of exactly what he and his ex-gf had been getting up to in the last 2 days before she dumped him (let’s just say it was pretty hot and steamy and leave it at that), the crowd hooted and laughed and the family finally decided to stop putting on a show and take it down to the police station. And the good news? Cat-boy already has a new gf!!!

Had dinner with a few friends the other night and met another foreigner who has been around for a while. She regaled us with hilarious stories of her fellow international students trying to send letters home (in the early 1990’s when email was just a dream), and people at home receiving only a photocopy of the letter, one poor Lithuanian girl receiving no mail at all until she and her family started writing to eachother in English (they figured out there musn’t have been a Lituanian translator in China at the time) and two Spanish guys chatting on the phone both wondering what time it was until finally a voice piped up “ITS 3 O’CLOCK!!!!!”.

I’ve had a lucky week this week so things are looking up! Won a bottle of champagne as a lucky door prize at a charity event and then got 2 freelance jobs to keep me busy too. But sadly the weather has made its final nasty turn into the frozen, dark 5-month period called winter, and I’m not happy about it. Considering all this, my friend (you know who you are!!) decided today was the day to buy an electric bicycle. We wandered round and she found a good deal while I amused the other bike man trying to convince him I was not from England and telling me I had a big nose was not necessarily a compliment!! we got the bike out of the shop and gathered a small crowd while taking the package off. I finally looked up and announced to our onlookers in Chinese “Sorry, there’s not going to be a show today!” At least my friend found it amusing.

  • Share/Bookmark
Posted in Life as an alien | 2 Comments

i’m still here…

i’ll be honest, i got back from the trip and got busy (and maybe just a little lazy) so that explains why you haven’t heard from me lately. but there has been so much going on this week that i had to get it all down before the next weird thing happens and i just forget…

sadly this past week, a good friend of the bf got dumped by his girlfriend of over one year, she simply told him “we’re not suited” and that was that. he wasn’t taking it well, so the bf invited him over to try and cheer him up. i arrived home a while later and tried to help out the best i could. finally, i decided to leave them to it and do some work on my laptop, but as i was making my way over to it the bf said “his cat broke the pot plant”

??? what the?? for starters i wasn’t 100% sure we even had a pot plant and the reference to the cat threw me completely. What cat? What are you talking about? Turns out his friend had decided to bring the cat he had been keeping for his gf at his house and try and give it back to her. Only she wouldn’t even see him when he went over. So he had brought the cat with him to our place where it was making itself comfortable on our indoor balcony. Thank goodness the bf had mentioned the cat before i’d discovered it myself, i probably would have had quite a shock if i had just come across a cat on the balcony!! the next day when his friend was leaving, i told him he could put the cat in an empty box we had, but he said “no worries” picked it up and put it in his backpack, zipped it shut and they went out for lunch together…

another of the bf’s friends had been at our place earlier in the week when he got a call from someone speaking english and asked me to talk to the person for him. it turned out they were showing his documentary at their cinema and wanted him to come for a director’s Q&A after the screening, to which he agreed. I was also invited to come along, so we decided to make a night of it. we arrived and watched the doco which was great, kind of a coming-of-age piece about four guys who are in the midst of leaving the army and starting life in the real world (including their other friend, the cat guy). it started off quite funny with the guys squatting on the toilet together having a chat, but by the end, the cat guy and the director were sitting in the back of a taxi together talking and wondering what they were going to do with their lives and started crying. i kept telling myself “don’t cry, don’t cry” then i turned and saw that the bf was crying and then the floodgates really opened.

it was at that moment that the movie ended, the lights came on, the guy i’d talked to on the phone turned round, introduced himself and had somehow roped me into being the translator all in the blink of an eye. one minute i was sitting in my comfortable seat wiping away the tears, the next minute i was standing up in front of a crowd of people about to be a translator. this may have been ok, except that this director has a very strong accent and uses big words i have never heard before in my life, so that even if he was saying “i went shopping today and then i went home” i still wouldn’t understand what he was saying. that did not go so well. finally we had the bf translate into simple chinese for me and i translated into english for the audience (all of whom, even a few chinese-looking people claimed not to be able to speak chinese!! yeah, whatever!!)

later in the week, our recently-arrived gay friend decided it was his duty to introduce us to the local gay club. its actually been around in beijing for a long time and seems to go down ok, although its only allowed to officially be called an “alternative” club. having never been to one myself, i figured it was a great to chance to go and check things out.

the place was CROWDED. we could barely get in the door for the constant line of bodies flowing past us. there were probably a total of about 5 women in there (inc me and my friend) and about 1000 men. strangely, it didn’t feel weird being such a minority, and for once, it was our straight guy friend who was worrying about being groped as we tried to make our way thru the club (i told him he was lucky, its usually like that for women all the time in clubs and bars!!). i dragged my female friend to the unisex bathroom, which although not unusual for china (its usually everyone queuing up in a hallway trying not to step in the ominous-looking puddles which are always there), the urinal against the wall was a bit of a surprise, as were the mirrors on the wall behind each toilet. enuf said.

it was all going well until the bf arrived and announced that he had seen one of his friends. this was the friend whom we had had dinner with last week, with his wife and 6 year old son. and there he was getting kinda cosy with a young guy on the sofa. i think part of the problem in china is that homosexuality was basically banned and very misunderstood until recently (it was only a few years ago that it was remived from the list of mental disorders), so some people maybe don’t realise until they are older and already married, or some other people do realise and because of social and family pressure end up getting unhappily married and try to live double-lives. he had heard rumours about his friend while they were in the army together but his friend had been with the girlfriend (he ended up marrying) the whole time.

so you can see, between outing married men, discovering cats on balconies and acting as a pseudo-translator, i’ve had a lot on my plate this week!

  • Share/Bookmark
Posted in Life as an alien | Leave a comment

day 53 on – heading back to civilisation

yangshuo was another picturesque town – with karst rock hills and mountains all around, cobbled streets and rivers running past. sadly, the rain followed us here too, so we had to spend the next day shopping and eating delicious lemon cheesecake and drinking coffee!! oh dear!!!

i’ve learnt a lot on this trip from my shopping experiences, and one of those lessons has been that no matter where you are in china, if a seller sees a foreign face, they will always, always yell out hello to get your attention, sometimes followed by “miss” “lady” or even “sir” (on those bad days when i haven’t had a shower and am looking particularly manly!!). but in yangshuo they have a different take on this, they yell out “hello” followed by the name of whatever they are selling, for example “hello pashmina” (bit of a mouthful!) and “hello postcards”. this was going along as we passed every stall and then we got to the fan stall…

“hello fans” – i heard it as though he was greeting his fans at a rock concert and considering where we were (dodgey little market in the rain) i found this extraordinarily amusing. i was almost rolling on the wet ground in fits of laughter. when i finally pulled it together enough to translate it to the bf, he barely cracked a smile. obviously didn’t translate that well…

from yangshuo we took a bus back to guilin (the main city nearby) and made it with only minutes to spare onto our train heading for shanghai. what i had thought was going to be about a 24hr trip (already horrendous) turned out to be more like a 30 hour trip, and we only found that out once we had boarded the train. this necessitated a trip to the dining car…

we were in carriage 16 and the dining car was in carriage 9. with the train going in the direction that we had to walk thru the compartments, it felt like it took hours to get there, walking through whgat was essentially the same carriage many times over. i was very dizzy. the food was expensive and nasty. i pined for my walmart bread and butter.

arrived in shanghai late afternoon and was eating donuts within 2 hours of arrival!!! i think my nose can sniff them out without me even knowing. shanghai is fabulous (of course because they have Mister Donut everywhere) but also because they have things like Taco Bell (I stopped dead on the middle of the footpath when i saw that) and Burger King and cinnamon pretzels and other western food that hasn’t made the short journey north to beijing. its also great because you can get to a lot of places by walking.

we visited the bund and xintiandi and had dim sum and went shopping. it was a great couple of days, but we were so worn out from the whole trip and so close to beijing that we could almost breathe the pollution. our plans for other destinations went out the window, we looked at eachother and said “let’s go home!!”

  • Share/Bookmark
Posted in Travelling circus | 5 Comments